Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Again, Christmas Draws Near

December Again, Christmas Draws Near
It was a year ago the 6th of December that we arrived in Demopolis, Alabama to ready Leap for Caribbean cruising. In the months that followed we worked hard getting Leap ready and sailing her here to Utila, Honduras, with stops along the way in Mexico and ever so briefly, Belize.

Leap moored in East Harbor Utila, Honduras

We have had bouts of  exuberant joy, soothing tranquility, fear, heartbreak and depression.  We have had tranquil days snorkeling in beautiful turquoise waters, watching gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, frolicking with dolphins, eating and drinking well and generally enjoying life. We have also had days of  dead reefs, equipment failure, storms and the biggest setback - The Lightning Strike. All of these emotions, high and low, have brought us contemplative moments allowing us time to ruminate on our observations and big picture questions.
Rumination Sunset

The best snorkeling we have had so far is here in Utila and the Cays to the southwest.
As we were snorkeling the other day along the reef on the north side of Utila, Charlie said, “It was a beautiful reef back in the day“.

Charlie’s Diving Recollections
As a boy, my family spent many Christmases in the Florida Keys diving. Christmas became sunshine, sand, palm tress, diving and boat trips. Snow and pine trees were a poor substitute for the diving tradition. I have returned to my roots and can say, that I am the more satisfied for it.

Drawing on the countless hours of diving and snorkeling coral reefs, beginning in the Florida Keys in 1962, thru the Mexican Caribbean in 1973, to the Bahamas in the 1980’s and 90‘s; my vivid recollections of coral diversity and its myriad of color, the quantity and varieties of fish life, all instilled a driving motivation to get back and re-live those awe-inspiring moments. Unfortunately I have yet to experience anything during this trip that even vaguely resembles my earlier experiences.

I am however left with the ability to “paint in” what a reef looked like when it was more alive. Before they began to die some of the reefs here in Utila would have been amazing and  I can still imagine what once was.  My motivation to go diving is far less than I would have predicted; the scale of the loss, hard to bear. The sights and life of the reef is simply a small remnant of my years previous dives.

Recently, I took my first scuba dive in 30 years. It allowed me to relax and observe the reef more closely than I can when I am free diving.  I was a little more encouraged after the dive, but not much. Overall, things are getting worse. I strongly encourage anyone wishing to see at least a partially alive reef, to do so soon.
Two Spotfin Butterflyfish on a dying reef 

Karen’s Diving Recollections
Being a Wisconsin girl that learned to dive in freshwater, a salt water reef dive was a spectacular kaleidoscope of color and life. My first reef dive experience was in 1979 in Florida followed by dives in the Bahamas in the 80’s and 90’s.
One of my favorite memories was the time Charlie’s parents - Chuck and Norma, and my parents- Dean and Sue, came to visit us in West End, Grand Bahamas. We all went snorkeling on a beautiful Staghorn coral reef. Charlie’s parents had snorkeled all over the world, but for my parents, it was a first. My mother a non-swimmer, never let go of Charlie’s hand, yet had a great time and the memory is still with her. Skyping with my Mom the other day about our snorkeling outing  here in Utila she asked, ”I bet you got to see all those pretty colorful fish?”
And yes, there are small colorful tropicals, but the coral is dying and large reef fish are practically non-existent.

Come See For Yourself
Those visiting a reef for the first time today may wonder what all the fuss is about. Without a past vision  one would  not realize the reef is not all that impressive today. With the situation worsening  visiting  a reef sooner than later is highly encouraged - we can‘t stress it enough.  We still keep searching for a last remaining “glory site”. If we find one you better come quick, it won’t last long.

Our Christmas Tree - sea urchins with hand woven palm frond skirt

Counting Our Blessings
Gratefulness:  to be able to sail both physically and mentally. To be kept safe when we have endured storms. Great coffee; Chiapas coffee in Mexico and Honduran coffee in Utila. Grateful we have each other.

Fortunate: we have enough to get by for now, as wealthy we are not, in dollars that is. Our added wealth comes from our experiences, people we've met, places visited and situations dealt with - adding to our skill set - and hopefully making us employable upon our return.

Humor: Even when the “sails are down” due to unexpected events we have a history of keeping our sense of humor. Besides, who else has the patience and better understands the quirkiness of the other? Or, shares in the vision that brought us this far?

Setting the Course Ahead
In the coming weeks, we will sail west to Rio Dulce, Guatemala as we want to visit “The Rio” before leaving this region. Once we leave Guatemala we will head back east, past Utila, stopping in Roatan and Guanaja before heading  south to; Isla de Providencia, then further south to Panama and its Bocas del Toro region and its San Blas Islands.

 We hope this post finds all well with everyone and that you are luxuriating in family, friends, good food and spirits of your choice (Tom & Jerry anyone?)  but most importantly - building great memories!
Yes, the picture is fuzzy, as we are rocking and rolling on the mooring today and yes too, having a bit of pre - Christmas Cheer in our red-neck wineglasses just to get in the spirit of things for this post.

We miss our family and friends immensely, but not the snow and cold!
From our hearts to yours -
Have a very Merry Christmas and we wish you and yours, all that is the best in the New Year.

New Years Resolution - Frolic More


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Encounters That Are Not About The Weather

Really- it isn't always about the weather.

The following pictures were taken by fellow cruising friends of some of our wildlife encounters.

Sharing dinner one night in the kitchen at El Milagro with Jim and Katie Coolbaugh and Jose Latimer (not pictured as he is photographer) we heard clang, skitter, clang, skitter and couldn't tell where it was coming from. This went on and on during dinner prep, and while eating, and by the time we got to dessert the sound was constant and louder. So the search began. We found this critter on the bottom shelf in the pots and pans.

Big Land Crab 
Showing off his/her "Don't give me any sh..t!"  claw.

Charlie to the rescue with the largest tongs we could find
as the crab was not interested in receiving assistance. He was snapping and skittering but Charlie persisted.
 Heading to the door and freedom with the claws clacking away at those tongs.
We found out the next day that the locals eat the land crabs claiming they are good.
We did have Land Crab soup here in Utila. It was in a base similar to creamy potato soup and served with half of a crab hanging out of the bowl. This was mostly for looks I think as most of the meat was out of the shell and claw and in the soup. Makes for good presentation - if you aren't sqeamish.

The next set were taken by our friends Steve and Christine on s/v Salacia.

We have a crab trap with us and have been fortunate to have some good crab dinners, but on this day when Charlie pulled up the trap we were surprised by the occupant. Still unsure how he got in or why he thought he should go in.

Flipping the trap over and opening the door to try and set the octopus free
but apparently he had another idea.

Not going so well

He would rather have the dinghy and motor off into the sunset.

Finally with a little coaxing from Charlie, all the while changing color every time he was touched, he finally found freedom over the side of the dinghy.

When we were in Bahia de la Ascension we saw a Manatee and Charlie went for a swim alongside.

As we mentioned in our previous post, it was a joy to see a manatee without propeller cuts in its' back.