June 2009

SeahorseThe village gang of kids ranging in age from four to eight ran up to the mission team with beaming smiles.  One held up a bright yellow sea horse captured in a plastic water bottle. The kids had captured a couple of sea horses while swimming under a house built on pilings over the ocean.   We have spent lots of time in the water, however, John had only once before seen a sea horse and Ann had never seen one.  It was a wonder to us, but just a frequent event in the lives of the kids in Savannah Bight on Guanaja , Honduras.

We returned to Guanaja in late May to work on a mission project, organized by Keith Willing, at Abundant Life Community in the small village of Savannah .  Ann knew Keith and Laurie Willing from Simpsonwood United Methodist Church in Peachtree Corners, GA.  Laurie and Keith have organized mission trips to Honduras for many years and purchased a small home on Guanaja a few years ago.  Keith had recruited six other construction team members and an oral surgeon for the one-week mission.  We had volunteered to help the team out for a week.

Savannah Bight seahorse pet

mission teamAbundant Life Community is a church center run by Jim and Julie Nelms. The major focus of the construction project was to enclose the ground floor of the Abundant Life facility by building a missing wall, pouring some concrete floors, and building window and door shutters for all the openings.  Abundant Life plans to open a bakery in this space, providing employment opportunities for people in the community.

John worked on the construction crew, building doors and window shutters for the building openings.  He and a series of helpers built and hung seven doors and five windows during the project’s four work days.  Other members of the construction crew built concrete walls and poured cement floors.


Mission team at Abundant Life Center

John buildingConstruction crew




John and Honduran helper building a door                                                  Construction crew busy at work

mission dental office


Ann was recruited to assist Dr. Glenn McIntosh as a dental assistant.  Ann had never done any type of medical work, so it was a week of learning for her.   Dr. Glenn brought along several bags of supplies and set up a dental office in the local clinic.  The dental chair was a folding canvas “camping chair” that reclined.   Dr. Glenn was only equipped to pull problem teeth.  There was no x-ray or electric drill capability.   Most patients had at least two teeth extracted and many had three teeth extracted during their visit.   A tragic note is that many of the patients were children who were already losing some of their permanent adult teeth to tooth decay.


Mission dental office

West End volleyballOnce the mission project was over, John was anxious to return to Roatan for some good beach volleyball.  We mentioned in our May log that Roatan was the first place John found good quality two man sand volleyball players.  One day John walked up to the court and introduced himself to Clint (from California and he looked it) who was hitting balls to two very good local players.  John played with Clint against Tony and Cooney.  John was not able to get many of his shots to hit the sand against those two guys.  John and Clint lost 21-17 and 21-18.  Later he found out that Tony and Cooney are the Honduras national champion two-man sand volleyball team and Clint is their coach.  They are preparing for the Central American Olympics in December.  John is looking forward to playing at Roatan again.

Volleyball at West End Roatan

After almost three months in Honduras , we checked out of the country on June 22.  On Sunday, June 28 the President of Honduras was deported out of the country in a coup.  Guess we left the country just in time!  We hope the political situation will be quickly resolved, since we enjoyed the country, made several friends during our visit, and want to spend more time there later this year (diving and playing volleyball).

As we left Honduras , we traveled west to the “corner” of Central America where Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize meet.  We prepared to enter the Rio Dulce River in Guatemala.   Seventeen miles up the river, there are about 15 marinas where many cruisers spend hurricane season.  Guatemala is not immune to hurricanes, but the hurricane impact up the river is usually limited to heavy rainfall.

The tricky part of the Rio Dulce is getting into the river at the town of Livingston. The river flow has built up a muddy bar and the water level at low tide is four to five feet.  Since the draft on our boat is about six feet, we needed to enter the river on a high tide.  We had selected a date and time that should give us an additional 1.8 to 2 feet at high tide and had been provided several GPS waypoints to use as a guide to enter the river.  Fortunately, the bottom is mud, so if we touched the bottom, we should be able to power through the mud.  We usually go slowly if we are worried about the depth of an area, but this time we had the engine powered up.  We never felt the boat touching, but as we watched the depth sounder, it appeared that we had only a few inches of water below our keel for several minutes.

Public laundry in GuatemalaWe were finally out of the shallowest water in about 20 minutes and anchored to complete all the official procedures required to enter into the country.  We called an agent on the VHF radio and about 30 minutes later, a boat approached with seven men onboard.   The boat captain and his helper remained on board, but the agent, Immigration Officer, Port Captain, Coast Guard Captain, and doctor all boarded our boat.  One of our cruising friends said that with everyone in their various uniforms, he felt he had been visited by the “Village People”.  The officials reviewed our passports, boat documentation, and the clearance papers from Honduras and asked a few questions.  The doctor never posed any questions, so I guess we looked healthy enough!  Ann served everyone lemonade and homemade banana bread and they were off the boat in less than 30 minutes.

Public laundry in Livingston, Guatemala

In the town of Livingston , we saw a very interesting version of a public laundry. There is roof with open sides covering 13 concrete basins.  At one end of the structure, there is a water pipe with continuous running water.  Women use buckets to obtain water from the pipe and pour into the concrete basins.  Some of the basins are shallow with ridges, where clothes are soaped and scrubbed with a stiff bristle brush.  Other basins are deeper and are used to rinse the clothes.  We were told there are three similar facilities in Livingston .   We have seen areas along rivers often used for laundry, but this is our first time to see this type of infrastructure provided for a public laundry.

Rio Dulce riverThe river was busy with boat traffic as we made our way upriver.   Most of the small villages on the river can only be accessed by water, so boats are the only form of transportation.   Most of the boats are powered by outboard engines, but we also saw small dugout canoes powered by paddles.  After about eight miles, we stopped overnight in Texan Bay for a tasty meal of chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and gravy and took the dinghy to explore some of the smaller streams that run into the river.

Rio Dulce River

Bird guests


Birds woke us the following morning and we looked out to see about 20 birds (10 perched on each side of the boat) making a new home on our boat.  We also found sticks and straw on the deck, so we are convinced they were building a nest somewhere.  We haven’t found the nest, so we hope that we pulled up our anchor before the nest was completed.


Only half of our morning bird guests

We continued our journey another ten miles up the river and arrived at Mario’s Marina which will be our home for the next four months.   It is hot and steamy at the docks, so we make use of the cooling swimming pool every afternoon to survive.