Tuesday, Feb. 6 proved to be a momentous day with the arrival of our new batteries for the lodge. Now you say, “What’s the big deal about the batteries?” Well, there were 24 of them, which Terry and Patrice had purchased to replace our aged original “house batteries.” It had been a test of patience to finally get customs to release them to us on the mainland. Dealing with officials in developing countries can be a a real test. They had been in “battery jail” for weeks as we negotiated the final payment of duty for bringing them into the country. Perry Terry, our mayor for the East end of Roatan, finally got them released and shipped over to Port Royal and the lodge.
Each battery can produce 2.2 volts DC and weighs about 600 lbs. Very heavy! With all 24 linked together, we would be able to easily power all of Mango Creek Lodge. The batteries would run through inverters, which would convert the 24 DC volts to 120 volts AC.
They arrived that bright morning in fine fashion. A huge, bright-red shrimp boat, Sea Angel, that had been converted to a freighter, arrived around 9 a.m. just outside the reef. Slowly, she weaved her way around the Cow and Calf islands. Miguel went out in one of our fishing skiffs to guide her in the rest of the way.
There was some doubt for a while if she would make it. The ship was very heavy and dragged on the bottom the last few hundred feet to our dock. The boat dwarfed our boat house. Finally, it tied up some 6 feet off the dock. That was as close as it could get being securely planted in the mud on the bottom.
A gang plank was fashioned out of about six 2×6 planks, and soon the first battery was pushed off the boat across the planks and onto our dock. We all cringed in fear as we saw that it would be easy for the battery to plunge into the water between the dock and the boat.
By this time, most of our 20 employees had managed to congregate on our dock to help or simply to watch the event. This, combined with the 10 or so sailors on the ship and Perry Terry’s six men, made for quite a gang.
The first battery finally made it across the planks, and soon there were four more right behind them. Yikes! The dock was starting to sink! “Stop,” I yelled, with what I hoped sounded like authority. They stopped. Whew!
I explained the problem and said no more batteries on the dock until the ones on the dock were moved off. With a great deal of effort and eight men, we managed to get one up on the “battery mobile” and finally moved off the dock. But it was a slow process and also a dangerous one. The battery wobbled as it was moved, threatening to fall off the wagon.
Randy came to the rescue with our dolly. I thought he was nuts. It was too small to move these batteries. He gamely put one on the dolly and quickly and safely moved it off the dock. Problem solved. All the remaining batteries were moved as quickly as they were moved off the ship.
At the end of the day, the ship was gone, and the crowds cleared. Twenty-four batteries sat silently waiting for the rest of their journey to the top of the hill to their new home at the solar panel building.
The batteries rested for a few days in the shade of the palm trees surrounding our restaurant, and the “battery mobile” was altered twice before we were satisfied that it would be able to move the batteries up the hill.
Just after the arrival of the batteries, Jean Mueller and her mother, Dorothy, arrived for a holiday. By coincidence, we purchased the batteries through Jean’s company, and they managed to arrive at Mango Creek just as we prepared to move the batteries up the hill.
John & Joan Fostroot also arrived for their vacation at the same time. We were all having a great time. Jean insisted on helping with the dishes each evening after dinner. Our guests spent lazy days snorkeling and exploring our surrounding bays, mangroves, and islands.
Mark Hatter and Cliff Parsons also arrived and added to the festive environment. Mark must have had about $20,000 worth of camera equipment and took some of the best photos we’ve seen of the lodge. He was writing an article on the lodge for Eastern Saltwater Fly Fishing magazine.
Each night, we feasted on lobster, shrimp, and fresh wahoo fish, all delivered fresh to our door by our local fishermen.
Meanwhile, all was not well on the property. High Rocks, our sports fisherman, was not charging her batteries, and we had to troubleshoot the system to find out what was happening. Our luck was holding. Two catamarans anchored in our harbour came to the rescue. Tom, off Paradox, and John, off Deja Vu, arrived with their electric meters and soon arrived at a conclusion. The battery combiner was shot, and the alternator on the starboard engine was “toast.” The solution: Get the alternator fixed and bypass the combiner.
Our main generator had been making an ugly noise. Upon closer inspection, I found the bearing we had put in the previous month was loose in the alternator casing and about ready to fly apart. Our backup generator was also not operational. It needed a new injector, and that would be a problem because the Kubota diesel that powered it was no longer made.
The next day, we were off to the “rodeo” for another adventure down island. Not only were we going to replenish our food supplies, but we were also going to try to solve our mechanical problems. On this island, we consider a 33% success rate to be normal. That means for every three things you try to get done, usually only one works out. We brought Tie-Tie with us to translate (Spanish/Creole) for us.
Halfway down island is a small town, Barrio Los Fuertes, that is predominately Spanish-speaking. The inhabitants are descendants of the original shrimp fleet that is still centered on the island. We stopped in the middle of town. Off to the side was a cluster of cars having various repairs done. Outside the cars were a number of tin-roofed shacks. Each shack was busy fixing some part of one of the cars in the parking lot.
Tie Tie presented all three of our problems to the mechanics. The first guy took the alternator from High Rocks saying he could repair it. But before he could fix it, we would have to buy him some two-part glue across the street. We did that and returned it to the mechanic. The second mechanic took off in a car looking for a used alternator to replace the one for our main generator. The third guy also took off to find another injector for us.
We soon left the parking lot to continue our shopping for food and hardware for the lodge. Upon our return, all three problems had been solved. It was $30 to rebuild the one alternator, $30 for another used injector, and $80 for the used alternator. Yippee! A 100% day at the rodeo.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, more guests were starting to arrive. Jeff Wiese and Perry Herst Jr. were set up in cabanas 1 and 2. We bid a fond farewell to Jean and Dorothy, and their cabanas were now occupied by our first contingency of Frenchmen from Paris.
Neil Harrison booked in for a 12-day visit and soon became part of our staff. He refused to move off our Breakfast Flat just outside the lodge. He and Miguel fished it each day, determined to outsmart the plentiful bonefish.
Neil then took out our new Hobie Kayak, which can be peddled. Because it moves through the water by peddling, his hands were free to fish. He successfully caught a needle fish, a barracuda, and various jacks and snappers.
He also proved fearless by dropping his fly on an alligator. He thought it was a tarpon but Randy quickly let him know that he may not really want to land that one.
Feb. 12 saw the final movement of the batteries up the hill to the solar panels. It took 2 days and every man on the property. The most of the first day, the guys insisted on using brute strength to move the batteries up the hill. Halfway through the day, they finally saw the light. The use of pulleys and a long rope would make the job a lot easier. Tie-Tie and Kessel took charge of moving the snatch blocks and the rope as the battery mobile zig-zagged through the trees.
John Logan arrived here on Feb. 18. Terry and Patrice had hired him in Durango to give Julie and I some relief. John, 23 years old, had just graduated college and wanted an adventure. What better place than Honduras? Within a day, he was moved into the boathouse, and training started.
He quickly learned Panga driving, skiff driving, going to the rodeo, generator starting, and tending bar at night. Yippee! And not only that, he is learning how to do some of this Web development stuff. Our latest fishing report was written by John. He is an avid trout fisherman and is looking forward to learning saltwater fly fishing. That’s is, if he has enough time to go play.
Throughout the month, Manuelito continued with his concrete/clay tile walkways. When he finished them, he painted our generator house. Next, he pushed on to paint our main lodge.