Start of Busy Season

The morning of Jan. 7 started with a bit of a scare! Chena arrived for work a little flustered. Now, to come to work, she has to leave her home in Calabash Bight and head out through the reefs in her small skiff into the open ocean. She then travels a mile or so in the open ocean until she goes through the reef into the protection of Port Royal. Sometimes, the waves in the open ocean can be very large. Many times, she does this trip alone in the dark with high wind and waves. This is normal for the Roatanians here; their small boats are their cars.

Well, she told me that while she was out in the big waves, her 15-HP Yamaha motor had broken down because of bad wires. She started working on the motor and was drifting back toward the reef when she spotted Kessel coming her way. Kessel, one of our guides, was going to rescue her. She was sure of that. But when she looked back, he was gone! Undaunted, she managed to get her motor going and finally pass through the reef and arrive at Mango Creek for work. But she was worried now about Kessel. “He must be broken down, too,” she said.

Well, it was time for rescue boys. Terry Kyle and I hopped in the Panga, our big boat with the 60 HP on it, and headed out into the ocean. We tracked back toward Calabash, and sure enough, we spotted a small boat battling toward us. It was Kessel with his 16-year-old son, Jake, and they were crashing into the waves head-on and launching into the air off each crest. As they passed us, Terry and I slipped down into the hollow of a wave. Kessel and Jake’s boat launched off the the crest of the next wave, and we were actually looking up at the bottom of their skiff! The only part of the boat in the water was the prop! Kessel had that question-mark look on his face that said, “What are you gringos doing out here?”

Everyone arrived in great shape, but as Kessel pointed out after all, he had his paddle and was never in any danger … . These people are tough, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

Projects, projects, projects! We were into them.

Miguel and Jake were put to work painting our boat house. We had decided that something had to be done to modify it to resemble the rest of the Cabanas and the restaurant. Julie selected color schemes, and Terry came up with an idea to add some thatch to the structure. Painting began Jan. 8.

A new satellite dish was bought to improve our ability to communicate. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible to get someone to install it. Finally, we tracked down Michael Senn from the mainland, and, boom, the job was done.

Terry worked away at trying to get our wind generators up and running again. He got one fixed, but it was apparent that the other one had to come down for repairs. Tie-Tie and the rest of the fishing guides and Randy are seen here lowering the towers–a tricky operation at best.

Meanwhile, Julie and I had to have fillings fixed. Off we went to French Harbour for our appointments with Dr. Carla. She worked on me for almost 3 hours giving me a new composite filling in my huge cavity. Julie was in the chair for 1 1/2 hours, too. The bill was $45 for me and $35 for Julie. Not exactly back-home prices.

On the way back, we stopped at The Galaxy ferry to pick up the axles that Terry had made up for a wagon we were making. We also picked up a winch to help bring down our wind generator.

We were expecting a shipment of batteries to arrive from China. These batteries would replace the lodge’s aging house battery banks. The shipment would be made up of 24 batteries, each weighing 600 lbs. We needed to move each battery up the hill to our solar arrays–hence, the need for the wagon. Not a fun thing …

Once back at the lodge, of course, it was discovered that the axels for the wagon were the wrong length and would have to be machined further. This is Honduras. What were we thinking? Terry dropped the parts off the next day for fixing and returned the day after for pickup. He also dropped off plans for a plate to be made up to be used for our backup generator.

When we got there the next day, we were informed that the parts had been picked up and paid for (!) by another gringo in Port Royal. But who? We called everyone but to no avail. Two projects were now on hold until the parts turned up.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the thatching of Cabana 3 was in full swing. Leaf had been purchased for the roof and had been drying for about 2 weeks. Randy, Kessel, and Tie-Tie removed all the old thatch. Next, new leaf was carried up by ladder and placed carefully by Randy. Fishing nets were then placed over the full roof to protect the thatch from big winds.

The painting of the boat house continued with Miguel and Jake working away with multi-colored paint.

The front doors to the restaurant were taken away to be sanded and revarnished by Antonio and Rafael. They temporarily nailed up a large piece of cardboard to keep the weather out.

With the Arrival of High Rocks, the new sports fishing boat, came two new projects. The first was a new dock for the new boat. Perry Terry (our mayor and contractor) had a whole gang of his men busy putting in pilings and building our new dock.

In the meantime, Manuelito, a magician in concrete work, was hired to build a new pathway to the new dock. Sand and gravel were dug out of Mango Creek for the concrete walkways.

Rigo mixed the concrete in a wheelbarrow, and Don Julio broke up clay roofing tiles to make the inserts for the walkway. As the days passed, Mango Creek Lodge increased her gardens and pathways.

During the month, we were also visited by a number of customers. Phil Clough from Toronto spent a week chasing all our saltwater fish. After catching numerous bonefish, he became totally focused on catching tarpon and permit. He was very successful, and here is Perry with one of his tarpon. After this catch, he decided that landing them in the fishing skiff was not so cool. This fish almost destroyed his rods!

Miguel got his first day fisherman from Reef House. They went out spin fishing and caught a bonefish and a nice 60-lb tarpon. The fisherman, Dave from Philadelphia, was very happy and promised to return with his wife next time.

The last week of January, the fishing really heated up. All four of our cabanas were booked, with two men per cabana. Four were from West Virginia, and four were from Utah. All eight were fishing. All our fishing guides were busy and so were all the cooks. Each evening at dusk, the tired men would return looking forward to a cold beer and a home-cooked meal.

Our luck was good in the restaurant, too. Every day or so, a local fisherman would come by our lodge selling lobster, shrimp, wahoo, and snapper.

Unfortunately, Terry left us mid month just as things were heating up. He returned for the expected birth of a brand-new grandson.

Having everyone busy fishing was good for business but bad for the projects. The answer was to hire some summer students to help out with the work.

Jake, Kessel’s son, helped with yard work, and Rebecca, Ilee’s sister, helped with the laundry and cleaning.

Eventually, the missing parts that were given to the wrong people by the machine shop down island were returned to the machine shop. And then they eventually made their way to Mango Creek. We never knew who the strange gringo was. So our workshop got busy right away and made up a go-cart the looked like it was on steroids. Each wheel was a special wheelbarrow wheel on bearings. We all passed inspection and decided it probably could carry a 600-lb battery. After all, it passed the Rigo test, and he bounced as hard as he could on it.

Ed Kettyle

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