story / editorial
Training for the Dive Experts
by Jennifer Matthews
Photos by Gord Meeks
Diving Keeps Bay Islands' Divers in Tip-Top Shape
TEC diver practices using a reel
new form of diving has given the islands a new direction.
Because of the calm conditions and temperate waters, the
Bay Islands are the perfect place to learn not only recreational
diving, but also the more specialized activity of TEC diving.
The motivation for TEC enthusiasts is to dive deeper and
to be able to dive for longer periods of time.
diving refers to "technical diving" and is a form
of scuba diving that exceeds the realms of recreational
diving which doesn't require planned decompression stops.
It requires advanced training and experience, specialized
equipment, and proficiency in gases other than air, or standard
nitrox gas. According to PADI, TEC "is further defined
as an activity that includes one or more of the following:
diving beyond 40 meters/130 feet, required stage decompression,
diving in an overhead environment beyond 130 linear feet
from the surface, accelerated stage decompression and/or
the use of multiple gas mixtures in a single dive."
A physical ceiling environment can be classified as cave
diving, ice diving, wreck diving, or deep diving where decompression
stops are essential.
TEC divers adjust their second tanks
to Everett Ingram, TEC course director, the reason for TEC diving
is a resounding, "Exploration!" At the time of interview
Ingram was a Silver Course Director, and about to be Gold within
the month, and is developing a course for Subway Watersports.
TEC experience, divers can imagine going far into underwater caves
or exploring wrecks that were previously unattainable. Practical
applications include repairing mooring lines and inspecting channels.
equipment involved in TEC diving is more extensive than standard
scuba diving, with side mount harnesses for extra tanks, each
with its own regulator. As technical dives involve longer
durations and mandatory decompression stops, the equipment
gives more redundancy that traditional equipment. There are
options for multiple high capacity tanks and rebreathers.
Recent developments in equipment, such as smaller tanks and
harnesses that position the tanks in line with the body, have
made TEC diving more accessible.
diving is a sport that's ahead of the curve," said Will
Welbourne, TEC Diving Instructor at Coconut Tree Divers in
West End, Roatan. "There's a building global interest
that has picked up significantly. We have a huge increase
in inquiries." Welbourne has been teaching TEC diving
since 2005, developed the Roatan TEC Team at Coconut Tree
Divers, and is currently working with PADI to develop new
official teaching modules for the specialization.
Utila is not far behind. Similarly to Welbourne and Ingram,
Gord Meeks at Utila Dive Center is also developing new techniques
and teaching modules. With TEC diving a relatively new frontier,
there is room for defining applications.
TEC diving involves dangers of depth and length of time, TEC
diving is safer than traditional diving. "You have to
put more into planning your dives," said Ingram. "Your
computer is not your principal, but your backup." With
extra redundancies, TEC diving also allows divers to explore
extreme conditions without a buddy. "Essentially, you
are your own backup," according to Ingram.
to Monty Graham, TEC diving instructor at Coconut Tree Divers,
"The more gases you are qualified to use, the deeper
you can go. With trimix there is no limitation depth."
This is also why Graham believes that the Bay Islands are
the perfect place for TEC diving with the topography of the
bottom offering so many opportunities to go deep just a short
distance from shore.
for TEC diving courses run approximately $1,200 plus the cost
of equipment. PADI has recently revised the TEC requirements.
Prerequisite courses are Rescue, NITROX, and Deep Diving.
There are opportunities to do Discover TEC through PADI. The
first course is TEC 40, which has four dives to a maximum
of 40m (about 130') using planned decompression stops. The
subsequent TEC 45 course is four dives to 45m (150 ft.). TEC
50 is four dives to 165ft. Then available is TEC Trimix 65,
and TEC Trimix diver courses.
TEC diving is a relatively new activity, still costly and
elite, the ocean is, after all, "the final frontier"
for many. TEC diving in the Bay Islands presents a perfect
opportunity for those adventurers to explore the depths on
our very own doorstep.
the boat before the dive: Michael Moses, Guillermo Peirano,
Gord Meeks, Jon Kieren.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
wasted opportunities also cost lives. Roatan's roads are
notoriously dangerous and deadly and the island's taxi drivers
have become infamous for their inconsiderate, dangerous
driving habits and arrogance. Not long ago there was an
opportunity to change that reality and save lives. In 2006
the Jared Hynds Community Center opened up with ample space
reserved for a driver education center. While the Roatan
Municipality has the power, and some would argue responsibility,
to require all taxi drivers to take a yearly, paid "driver
education" course before it issues them municipal operating
licenses, it has never done so. The taxi's owners don't
even have to take a yearly paid-by-owner road worthiness
year in the Bay Islands, around 10 to 20 people needlessly
die in avoidable traffic accidents, in circumstances that
are baffling to a driver who has taken a driving course
(likely outside of Honduras.) It is a wasted opportunity
paid by human tragedy and trauma.
recent opportunity lost for Hondurans, was the closure and
abandonment of beaches from Louisiana to Florida. The Honduran
Institute of Tourism has not advertised, nor promoted Honduras
as an affordable, nearby destination in US tourist markets
linked to the Gulf coast. This is a missed opportunity that
might not present itself again.
the Roatan businesses were forced to focus their marketing
efforts on "staying alive" or the "dos por
uno" campaigns. While several resorts that embraced
"dos por uno" could pay their bills and keep their
employees, other resorts, which did not drastically lower
their prices, found themselves struggling and unable to
are several opportunities not yet lost. The seafood breeding
grounds in Gulf of Mexico, affected by the oil spill, will
likely be negatively impacted for several years. As a result
the lobster and shrimp fishermen and the packing plants
in the Bay Islands are looking at a bright couple of years,
probably. That is if Bay Islanders don't sell all their
boats to Ceibeños and manage to get all their boats
equipped and out to fishing grounds.
country's failure is other's opportunity, so let's take
advantage of them before someone else does.
While it is easy to blame circumstances for one's suffering,
no one but oneself is to blame for failing to take advantage
of an opportunity given.
2009 was a difficult, even disastrous for some, year in
Honduras, 2010 looks to be different. Compared to 2009,
with its floods, 7.4 earthquake, a coup, political crisis
and international sanctions, 2010 looks like a gift from
industries are up, almost all of them. Coffee prices hit
a 12-year-high, shrimp prices are up 25%, and the Gulf oil
disaster has provided opportunities to cash-in on Florida-beach-deprived
tourists. The question remains whether Hondurans and Bay
Islanders can take advantage of opportunities presented
far as opportunities and gifts go, nature endowed the islands
with abundant reefs, beautiful rolling hills, plentiful
freshwater aquifers, unique flora and fauna. Sadly, in recent
past, Bay Islanders are showing a poor record of taking
advantage of opportunities handed down to them.
World Bank's "gift to Roatan" of garbage dumps
have been misused, if used at all. The Roatan dump has been
an environmental disaster for years - due to mismanagement
by municipal government. The Santos Guardiola dump, after
a well attended and nationally publicized ribbon cutting
ceremony in April 2008, has never been opened and several
expensive machines are rusting away. Easy come, easy go.
a nearby temporary Diamond Rock dump, untreated garbage
burns and harmful pollutants sip into unprotected soil,
endangering the islands aquifers. This is when a perfectly
ready dump sits two miles away, at the end of a paved, but
unused road, behind a rusting fence.
story / george
/ local news
Want Roads, Roads, Roads'
By Thomas Tomczyk
New Central Government Representative for Bay Islands Hears
Requests from Mayors
to Commissioner McNab, Roatan's mayor has pronounced a new
hospital and paving of the Mud Hole to Palmetto road as
the top priority projects he'd like help with. The Santos
Guardiola mayor wants the road paved from Oak Ridge to Paya
Bay. Utila's mayor wants a road running from East Harbour
west towards the Cayos, and Guanaja's mayor wants the paved
road to be continued towards the airport. Road infrastructure
is on the mind of all Bay Islands municipal executives.
Roatan municipality and some private businesses (Carnival
Cruise Lines, Media Luna Resort and the Black Pearl golf
course) have built several miles of paved roads on the island,
the central government and its Ministry of Public Works
(Secretaría de Obras Públicas, Transporte
y Vivienda SOPTRAVI) have done little in the last several
years, apart from maintenance and repair. In the last four
years there has been no significant public road construction
on the island with Punta Gorda being the only exception.
It is conceivable that road work that should have been done
by SOPTRAVI, from central government funds, is now likely
to be paid from international aid.
Commissioner's office is planned to open in the Jared Hynds
Community Center in French Harbour. Four technicians are
expected to be hired to help with determining and conducting
the projects. While the Commissioner's post is paid around
Lps. 20,000 a month, the committee members are not paid.
road around Diamond Rock
has plenty of ministries, 22 in fact. In February it received
one more: Ministry of Planning and Foreign Aid (SEPLAN -
Secretaria Tecnica de Planificacion y Cooperacion Externa).
The ministry is responsible for planning and funding development
projects throughout Honduras.
an effort to decentralize the government and bring in local
participation to decision-making," says Commissioner
Evans McNab, responsible for Zone 6, the Bay Islands. The
six Zones of Honduras are divided based on watershed and
Bay Islands is the country's smallest zone. Cayos Cochinos,
while part of the Roatan Municipality, is not under the
Bay Islands Commissioner but instead falls under the Zone
5 Commissioner's jurisdiction.
Zone Commission will rely on a 15 member advisory commission
for suggestions and prioritizing of development projects.
The four places at the committee are guaranteed for the
Municipality mayors, and the remaining 15 places will be
assigned in a series of meetings with different groups representing
the Bay Islands interests: tour guides, press, construction,
etc. All of that is planned for the coming two-three months.
Pirates are BackBy
a 160 year absence, Roatan is home to a Pirate Ship
says that he has designed the Black Pearl himself "from
pirate sketches" found at the Library of London. "It's
the exact replica of Henry Morgan's 1645 boat," Jiri
says about his pirate ship.
two mast brig is 27 meters long, 7 meters wide and displaces
200 tones. It is meant to accommodate 70 passengers and
eight crew. Jiri assures everyone that the pirate ship was
inspected and certified by the Roatan port captain.
authenticity of the boat was increased by the casting, in
Czech Republic, of six period-style cannons. Four of them
are 14 pound and the other two are 16 pound cannons.
boat's ribs are made of Santa Maria wood. Honduran mountain
pine was used for the boat's siding. The ship's bottom and
deck was covered in fiberglass.
construction of the boat took longer then Jiri expected,
over four years in fact. The Black Pearl was built at la
Ceiba shipyard, then moved to Oak Ridge for equipping. Now
it is docked at Fantasy Island where it is destined for
sword fencing match
Bay Islands have not have a pirate ship docking since 1741
when the English military settlement in Port Royal put an
end to Roatan's pirate history that begun in 1500s.
Czech entrepreneur, artist and (since 1999) Roatan resident
Jiri Maska. Jiri has been thinking about pirates since he
was a teenager. When he came to Roatan, he built a brewery,
launched a naturally brewed Pilzner beer and then focused
his energy on his childhood dream of captaining a pirate
story / editorial
Disaster, Another's Gain
By Thomas Tomczyk
Islands Fishing Industry Benefits from the Gulf Oil Spill
With fuel prices spiking for the last five years the shrimp industry
in the Bay Islands has been struggling to stay profitable. Shrimping
in the Gulf of Honduras became a balance of paying for boats' costs,
diesel and crew salaries. In the last several years many fishing
boat owners in the Bay Islands were forced to sell their boats and
banks have repossessed dozens of others.
takes between $30,000 and $50,000 to equip a lobster boat for the
season. A shrimp boat is less costly, about $15,000-$25,000. In
the past, boat owners could count on financial help from banks or
packing houses to outfit their boats with fuel and supplies for
the season. However, banks and packing plants are also strapped
for cash and not so willing to help boat owners, many of whom now
own only a fraction of their boat. "80% of the fleet has mortgaged
100% of the value of their boats," says Hyde. "I know
of only five [boat owners] that are solvent."
of the 170 boats that hold lobster licenses now only around 60 are
based on Roatan, with 60 on Guanaja, and the remainder in La Ceiba,
a growing base for the Honduran fishing fleet. Roatan still remains
the base for Honduras shrimpers with 80% of the 42 boats being based
here. Only one of the four Honduran conch fishing boats is based
Ceiba is also a location of growing number of packing plants - around
a dozen now. In recent years two packing plants closed in the Bay
Islands reducing the number to four operating packing plants: two
on Roatan and two on Guanaja.
boat that is able to go out fishing means a regained livelihood
for Bay Islands families. With eight people employed on a shrimp
boat and 14 people on a lobster boat, Bay Islands has seen hundreds
of fishermen lose their source of income. "Many captains are
working abroad," says Evans McNab. With a closing of Bay Islands'
packing plants, hundreds of employees, mostly women, have also lost
a good year, the Honduran fishing industry grosses around $100 million
Lempira, or $5 million. While the 2010 season looks good, it comes
after several years of break-even seasons and to an industry that
is fragile and shrunk. "You don't know how a season is going
to be until it is over. There are hurricanes, etc," says Hyde.
"Still, while the world economy is bad, our prices have gone
fleet in Guanaja
Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster has had an economic impact
far beyond US borders. The Bay Islands' lobster and shrimp fishing
industry is on a firm path to benefit from the Gulf's misfortune.
The shrimp bonanza is years overdue, and after several lean seasons
couldn't have come soon enough. After the 2003-04 US embargo on
Honduran shrimp, diesel prices going from 60 cents to $3 a gallon,
and shortage of cash, the Bay Islands' fishermen could use a break.
of June, 87,000 square miles, or about 36% of Gulf of Mexico shrimp
fisheries were closed to fishing and many shrimp buyers were reluctant
to buy Gulf shrimp for fear of contamination. The prices of seafood
in US rose and Honduras fishermen lined up to benefit from this
opportunity. The 2010 Honduran fishing seasons opened early: lobster
season opened on July 1, and shrimp season followed on July 22.
current lobster prices are around 60% higher then last year. The
buyers pay $14.15 per pound of lobster, compared to $8.50 per lb.
paid last year. The increase is less with shrimp whose prices have
risen around 25% and one pound of shrimp brings in $2.60. While
the lobster prices are high, they don't approach the record prices
of $18.50 that were paid in 2001 and 2002.
shrimp buyers pressure Honduran fishermen to sell their wild shrimp
at prices similar to Pacific farm raised shrimp. The Honduran fishermen
are beginning to develop a brand name to their product: the "Honduran
pink"- as a select quality product. The idea is to disassociate
the wild Honduran shrimp with lower quality, farm raised shrimp
raised en masse in Honduras' Fonseca Bay. Developing a brand name
is a difficult matter and some see an up-hill struggle. "It
will take a united effort on the part of the fishing industry and
there has been little of that in the last 40 years," says Shawn
Hyde, GM of Mariscos Hybur, one of Roatan's two working packing
seafood industry is always changing. Ten years ago, 90% of Honduran
shrimp was being sold and shipped to US. The 2003-04 US embargo
on Honduran shrimp forced many boat owners to diversify where they
sell their product and currently only 50% of Honduran shrimp is
sold in the US. The rest is sold in Central America: Honduras, El
Salvador and Guatemala. By exporting shrimp to the Central American
market, "we can save around $1.25 in packing cost," explains
Evans McNab, Bay Islands Commissioner and fishing fleet owner.