Though we're sorely remiss and still need to update everyone on the past six months, we couldn't let 2003 end without checking in, letting everyone know where we are and wishing each and all a very happy, healthy new year.
We're in Honduras and have been hanging out with this new group of cruisers for the last three weeks. We first met two boats--QUEEN MARY (the miniature version) and SNOWDAY--when we were all having our bottoms painted in La Ceiba, a small, ramshackle city on the Honduran boasting not much more than a two-floor mall.
Adjacent to the shipyard is the Loro Verde (Green Parrot) Cafe, a tiny cantina where the boatyard workers and the boatyard clients hang out at noon to eat the lunch special--for $1.75 a head you get a piece of chicken or a sliver of fish or some indeterminate cut of bony meat, plus rice, beans and a mystery beige adornment, in the shape of a banana that is in no way a banana and tastes like a well used piece of bubble gum.
Late one afternoon, after the sanders and painters quit and all boat work stops, Brenda and Gene (QUEEN MARY) and Todd (SNOWDAY) were playing rollicking country music in the open-air, thatched roof porch off the main bar. Everybody brought their own bug spray and set it down next to their free bowl of popcorn. They played way into the dark hours. . Brenda belts out tunes like a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt while playing keyboard and bouncing up and down down like she's trotting a pony. Gene plays bass guitar, croons like a somewhat less gravelly Johnny Cash. Todd, who plays an absolutely magical guitar, also sings.
As everyone's boat work got done, we moved, about a week ago, from the mainland to the island of Roatan. We're anchored in a quiet cove, its shoreline dotted with a couple of rudimentary houses and a beach bar built into a mountain called The Hole in The Wall, an apt name if ever there was one. The Hole is owned and presided over by Bob, a white-haired, bearded, chubby old salt who could pass for Santa himself, and Rhonda, his crusty, take-not-much nonsense wife who's a real hoot. They--and most everyone else we meet in this quirky place--are relocated Americans.
Here, QUEEN MARY & SNOWDAY us and FEISTY hooked up with another four boats, old cruiser friends of QUEEN MARY, most of whom are also musicians. Some four other boats dropped in, many of whom joined the core group to form an impomptu band.with an ever-shifting cast of characters.
We all shared deep-fried turkey at Christmas and most other nights every boat brings some dish to the bar, where we share the meal and listen to six or eight or ten people play great country music. The FEISTY and LULU crews, who sing completely off key, generally mouth the words. But we do lots of clapping.
Sundays The Hole has an all-you-can \-eat steak/lobster BBQ for $10. Attended mostly by locals-- some rich American expats--others old cowpoke types from a variety of places and occupations. Gary's convinced a few are FBI witness-protection fugitives. Everyone arrives by small boat, as there are no roads into this place. Rhonda makes a properly-pappy, seeded rye bread. Mel and Gary could not stuff in those wonderful steak sandwiches fast enough. Lulu and Jackie concentrated on the lobster.
And, the music...almost always, there's music...though frequently we also feel we're in the middle of a Tennessee Williams play. The other day Laura offered to prepare an authentic Mexican dinner for us all, and she did, last night. She cooked up posole (a rich chicken and hominy soup), black beans stewed in onions and esoteric spices, three kinds of tamales and these cheese-stuffed, fire-red pancakes that can only be described as the Mexican version of blintzes.
Laura is a young Mexican woman, who speaks a lilting English, plays the flute and sometimes sings with the band. She lives with Scott, a beekeeper and sometime journalist, on an actual tugboat, named COTTON STATE that he sailed down from the States. Somewhere in Mexico he hooked up with Laura, who was winding down her own radio news/interview program--at the ripe old age of about 28. We can only guess what's next when she "grows up."
Scott plays both the fiddle and a wild harmonica. Most nights someone from the "audience" gets up and joins the band in the singing. Last night it was this tiny five-year-old named Lily, who sang "The Fox went on the town-o, town-o." She totally brought down the house, especially some teary grandparents in the crowd...
Lily and her seven-year-old sister, Jackie, live on a small sailboat named DREAM CATCHER, which has no refrigeration, no pressure water, no hot water and only an alcohol stove--just like camping. In the summers they return to Alaska and live in a trailer--just like camping. Their young parents, Denise and John, are delightful; John plays a backup guitar in the band.
We haven't heard a Spanish word since we got to Honduras, everybody's either American, or speaks English.
Tonight, New Year's Eve, The Hole is preparing a mess 'o shrimp as the main course and we'll all bring the other dishes. This area has the largest shrimp-collection fleet in the world. We recently bought huge, beheaded, thoroughly cleaned frozen shrimp right off the boat at 50 Lempiras, or $3.00 a pound.
Some of you may be jealous when I tell you we will be celebrating New Year's at midnight, Greenwich Mean Time--6PM local time. Probably no one will nod off before the ball actually drops!
Though we'll surely be having a great time, we will, of course, miss family and friends back home and cruiser friends strewn around not only the Caribbean but the rest of the globe.