story / editorial
Back in Full Speed
Almost Two Years of a Break the Island's Biggest Sporting Event, the
Sixth Bay Islands Triathlon is Here Again
triathletes ride on their bikes toward the transition area.
the biggest sporting event on Roatan, the Bay Islands Triathlon
is not easy to organize. The 2011 race, the sixth race ever,
was the smallest Bay Islands Triathlon to date with only
63 athletes finishing the course. Due to lack of sponsorship
the original triathlon scheduled for November 2010 had to
be postponed till January 23. While Heineken came through
and became the main sponsor, this was already a change from
the triathlon's usual March calendar spot.
the mandatory athlete's meeting prior to the race, some
elite triathletes voiced their concerns, especially with
limited supervision on the bike course and positioning of
the swim buoys that could lead to cheating. Even with police
help, not enough volunteers and supervisors could guarantee
that cars would stay off the roads, which had the professionals
"riding safe," not wanting to go full speed around
blind corners to potentially be faced with a speeding car.
to the north wind blowing the day before the race, organizers
placed the swim course buoys in the water around 7:45 am,
15 minutes after the expected start of the race. This delayed
start for the first wave of elites in turn caused the amateur
athletes to still be on their bikes well after 10:15 am,
when cars were allowed on West Bay road again. At the end
of the day all ended well with prizes and trophies given
at the Henry Morgan hall.
of the 29 men in the Olympic distance Leonardo Chacon from
Costa Rica took the prize in the elite men's category. It
was Chacon's third Bay Islands Triathlon, which he completed
in 1 hour 59 minutes and 25 seconds. Faster than the 2:00:05
women athletes registered and finished the Olympic distance.
Eight elite female triathletes from as far away as Japan
and Israel competed for points in international ranking.
The fastest was Elizabeth Bravo from Ecuador who finished
the course in 2:21:50. Roatan's fastest woman was Jenny
Roberts, who came in 50 minutes after the elite winner.
the men's sprint category, Honduran Jose Ozellama, took
the prize, finishing the course in 1 hour, 35 minutes and
33 seconds. The last male triathlete, Jose Abrego, crossed
the finish line over an hour and a half later. The women's
sprint was won by Natalie Siegler in 2 hours, 3 minutes
and 15 seconds. She was one of five women who finished the
text and photos by Thomas Tomczyk
groupers' athletes prepare to begin their race in the water.
by Jim Donnelly
visible level of acuity and hyper-awareness came across the
competitors' faces the morning of the race, like they had
just plugged into the Matrix and everything was suddenly and
completely comprehended. Many of the elites, however, only
moments after crossing the finish line, looked relatively
calm and unscathed. Some were getting treatment for muscle
cramps and dehydration, but most were milling about as if
they had just left a Spandex conference. Gone were the looks
of desperation and pain. In their place, a sort of serene
it's tempting to see these triathletes as hard core, long-lasting
superhumans, or vain masochists, maybe they're simply chasing
an experience that people of many disciplines-from practicing
yoga to racing cars--chase after: that feeling of clarity
and calm that follows a period of physical activity which
requires the mind's full attention. They train hard, but they
play as well, which some amateur triathletes did just two
days before the race in West End. No one can be easily defined,
including the triathletes who swam, biked and ran Roatan's
waters and roads.
motivation for and rewards gained from participating in the
Bay Islands Triathlon are evident in the racing stories of
triathletes living in Honduras. Karine Pingit, originally
from France, decided to accompany her son, a physical education
teacher who planned to bring some of his students to the race
as inspiration. Due to a lack of funding, Pingit's son was
unable to bring any of his students, but mother and son decided
to come to Roatan and participate as well. As she casually
explained, "I used to swim a lot, so I figured why not?"
Having exited the swim portion with a strong time, Karine
was in great spirits, hollering encouragement to her fellow
participants as she put on her helmet and tennis shoes on
and rode off.
age group triathlete, Jenny Roberts had been an avid runner
and biker, but only since moving to Roatan six years ago did
she begin swimming. Roberts started training in September
using a free online training program which had her on a regimen
of three runs, three bikes rides and three swims per week
plus weight training. Prior to the race, she knew very little
about the intricacies of triathlons, this being her first
organized race of any kind. "Exercise is my drug of choice,
liking hitting a reset button on a bad day," explained
Islands Triathlon was also Adina Serrano's first Olympic distance
triathlon. A 17-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Serrano has competed
in two sprint triathlons within the last four months. She
described the Bay Islands race as "the athlete's perfect
believes that triathlon races are, "90% attitude"
and her attitude has been inspired primarily by her faith
and by watching the 2008 Olympic Games. "I always admired
how athletes can make a difference in strangers' lives,"
said Serrano, who cites Hunter Kemper, a seventh place finisher
in the Beijing Olympics, as one of the main sources of inspiration
in pursuing competitive racing. Essentially, Serrano races
to inspire other kids to start racing.
give out water and Gatorade to passing athletes.
story / editorial
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______________back to top
in the Chileans by
is Bad, and no one has a comprehensive plan for how to improve
at Least not a Feasible One
has been lost is the big picture. Trying to solve individual
components and particular elements within the overall system
will not help. It is naïve to think that resources
alone, salaries alone, training alone will make the difference
in punishing the offenders and bringing crime under control.
The system of police, prosecutors, judges and penal officials
is broken. Fixing just one element will do nothing other
than frustrate and place in physical danger the people attempting
to do this. I have witnessed several "idealistic police
officials" who attempted to make things right, only
to see their work being sabotaged by prosecutors, corrupt
lawyers, bribed judges, or when all else works, prison officials
who let their inmates escape.
According to Transparency International, Honduras ranks
136 out of 178 countries ranked, tying it with Nigeria and
Zimbabwe in the 2010 corruption ranking. Honduras' score
has declined steadily from 2008 and 2009. Such a high percentage
of people in the Honduran legal system are corrupt, unmotivated
and incompetent, that I and most Hondurans do not see an
answer in reforming the system.
I say that only cutting down a dead malignant vine tree
and planting a new one from a healthy vineyard will work.
When ethical values of public officials are skewed or nonexistent
it becomes impossible to correct them.
So, out of desperation and no realistic alternatives what
about firing all, and I mean every last one person, from
the Honduran justice system. On a 10-year contract, 25,000
Chileans could come to Honduras--12,000 police officers,
4,000 prosecutors, 3,000 judges, 6,000 prison officers and
15 supreme court justices.
As far as Latin America is concerned, the Chilean justice
system works, with officials who are dedicated and ethical.
While this could actually work, it will never happen.
In early January I saw an interesting statistic in "La
Prensa": Honduras became the most violent country in
the world in 2010-its official. Honduras has two cities
in the world's top ten most violent cities in the world:
San Pedo Sula is number three and Tegucigalpa is number
eight. Only Ciudad Juarez, entrapped in a border drug war,
and Kandahar, with US drone assassinations and suicide bombings,
have more homicides per capita than San Pedro Sula.
Only those who are confused, unable to analyze statistics
or in denial with their "crime happens anywhere"
mantra continue to think that the Bay Islands are somehow
immune to Honduras' growing violence. On Roatan, an island
of roughly 65,000 people (according to Bay Islands Voice
energy demand estimates), violent robberies, attacks and
murders happen to people at their offices, homes, on the
street and in front of churches. We live on an island where
the mayor only moves under armed guard protection, and where
a woman can be viciously stabbed at her work office. According
to Alicides Vides, Bay Islands Police Chief, there were
22 homocides on Roatan in 2010. That islands homicide rate
comes out to 33 per 100,000 people.
The economic situation on the mainland of Honduras aggravates
the desperation of the poor that migrate here and contributes
to the widening of the gap in income and education levels.
The Bay Islands might not be America, but for many mainland
Hondurans it is the easily accessible land of opportunity:
the wages are higher, the place is a bit more organized
and yes, a bit more safe.
It's bizarre how many groups have attempted to tackle crime
issues on Roatan just in the last eight years. First, in
the early 2000s it was CANATURH-BI that had a security committee
in which many issues of police funding and training were
discussed. Next it was the Roatan Municipal's vice mayor
who ran the security committee. Then it was ZOLITUR that
had the security committee which fizzled out like an empty
balloon. Eventually an American business owner decided to
form a crime watch type organization which organized police
cruisers and radios for the Roatan Preventiva.
story / editorial
/ local news
by Thomas Tomczyk
Dredging Expected in Dixon Cove to Create Easier Cruise
engineering mistake has proven costly for Carnival as well
as for Roatan. Since November 2009, 24 ships with 73,000
passengers intended to dock at MBCC ended up at Port of
Roatan due to weather. Twelve Carnival vessels with 29,000
passengers were unable to call on Roatan at all because
of weather that made the entrance to Dixon Cove too risky.
Around $2 million was not spent by these passenger on local
tours and goods. "We really need both [Roatan cruise
ship] docks running at full capacity. If a ship doesn't
come in to Roatan, it won't come here again," said
To widen the entrance to Dixon Cove, Mahogany Bay has filed
a petition to transplant 12,000 square meters of coral to
create a wider entrance to Dixon Cove. The existing width
of the channel varies along its length, but the channel's
width is expected to widen by "approximately the width
of 2.5 cruise ships" at the narrowest point.
According to Governor Hyde an environmental impact study
is expected to be submitted in February and, if all goes
well, SERNA should give its approval in March. The RCT is
a beneficiary of being designated as a "national priority"
project, a Honduran Congress decree from 2007. Still the
project now has seen three Honduran presidents --Zelaya,
Michelleti and now Lobo--and has had to deal with three
governments as far as permits and discussions.
According to Riemers, RCT will file for a permit to dredge
a 50,000 square meter triangular area of coral at the south-eastern
portion of the channel. The "cannon" paid yearly
to SERNA and currently at $78,000 and is expected to increase
as impacted area increases. "Cannon is a payment for
destroying or weakening a natural resource
be utilized in local communities. From 2008 it [Carnival]
should be paying, but they haven't paid yet," said
Torrez. Part of the confusion is where and to whom that
cannon should have been paid. "We are fighting so that
cannon money would be paid to Municipality, not to anyone
else," said Mayor Galindo, whose municipality will
receive a sewage system for the Dixon Cove's Colonia Santa
Maria, worth around $150,000, as part of the agreed compensation
that Carnival will pay.
Carnival is proposing to move some of the coral from the
site to a site directly west of the channel. "There
is going to be damage to the reef, but we will get to feed
our people," admits Governor Hyde. Roatan's environmental
watchdog, Roatan Marine Park, agrees: "From an economic
point of view this [the dredging] is good. From an environmental
point of view has a huge, negative impact," Grazzia
Matamoros, of the Roatan Marine Park.
Cruise Ship backs into Dixon Cove.
After 10 months of negotiations, the Honduran Government
stands its grounds: The fines must be paid and environmental
studies must be filed. It took five meetings in Tegucigalpa
and a final meeting on Roatan on January 17 to make it official.
"Carnival is extremely important to our economy, but
the government stood its ground. I am very impressed with
the [environment] minister," said Roatan's Mayor Julio
Galindo. "The minister said, 'I can't give you a permit
to dredge, if you [Carnival] haven't followed procedures
or paid fines on your first dredging permit.'"
Roatan Cruise Terminal (RCT), a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation,
decided to accept the penalty to move the permitting process
along. "Carnival is being very forthcoming. They acknowledged
their fault in this," said Governor Shawn Hyde. However,
according to Mike Riemers, General Manager of RCT, the Honduran
government knew about the dredging at the entrance to the
A Lps 1 million ($52,000) fine was given to RCT for dredging
coral beyond the given permit. "Dredging was larger
than permit was given," said Jose Luis Segovia, the
owner of the company that performed the original impact
study for Carnival's Mahogany Bay. This is the maximum fine
that the Honduran government can impose for an environmental
Even with all the dredging, cruise ships entering Mahogany
Bay Cruise Ship Terminal were still left with too narrow
an entrance to the cove. While the pace of construction
at Mahogany Bay was fast, sometimes frantic, a basic mistake
was made in the planning stages of the cruise ship terminal.
Halcrow, an engineering company, is blamed for this. Halcrow
did not respond to Bay Islands Voice requests for comment
on the matter.
The cove entrance continues to be difficult depending on
the wind, current, swell and type of vessel propulsion.
According to Riemers when the eastern wind is blowing at
20 knots, many cruise ships struggle to enter the channel.
At 25 knots, conditions become unsafe for just about any
cruise ship. When entering Dixon Cove the cruise ship is
perpendicular to the reef, and wind and waves make especially
it vulnerable as it backs into the narrow shelter.
Words and Vocabulary by
Learning Center in Sandy Bay Offers a Path to Knowledge
site of her new learning center used to be one of the more
popular resorts ont eh island--old Bay Islands Beach Resort.
It lies on the beach and rolling hills of Sandy Bay, reminiscent
of a university campus. While O'Brien foresees a vocational
school on the site, she is starting small with a learning
center and a library. "The vocational school still will
happen, but the economy has to come back," says O'Brien.
On January 11 the Sand Castle Library & Education Center
officially opened its doors. This is the center's second location
after a move from French Harbour's Jared Hynds Community Center
where it opened doors in 2009.
O'Brien's relationship with Roatan began in the mid 1990s,
when she and her husband Ted purchased property to build and
managed a resort. Now her priorities have changed. Instead
of business, she focuses on how to improve the local community.
"We live on our social security checks," says O'Brien
about herself and her husband. "The needs of the children
of our old staff are our priority."
While there are two aid staff, the program encourages volunteerism
amongst locals and expats. According to O'Brien the entire
program is run by around $8,000 a year. "This is enough
to pay for salaries, utility bills, cleaning, computer maintenance,"
says O'Brien. There are 150 children involved in the program,
with the number of progams continuing to grow. The weekly
schedule at the library is filled with opportunities for children
who want to study--Science Fun, Arts and Crafts, Reading Challenge
and Math Superstars. "I feel successful if I go to the
[Roatan] airport and see someone reading, not just standing
around," says O'Brien.
O'Brien speaks with one of the students in front of the
Islanders are facing a dilemma: how to advance the skills
and education of the island's children within a failing
school system. As in other parts of Honduras, people living
on the Bay islands are illiterate or semi-literate; and
with the steady influx of poor mainland Hondurans, the literacy
situation is not getting better. Only around 25% of school-aged
island children are enrolled in classes. Only 50% of children
finish sixth grade and even fewer, 10%, graduate from high
school. These numbers are approximate, as no statistics
exist regarding the exact number of people living on Roatan.
Camilla O'Brien, an American expat on Roatan since the early
1990s, has her solution: Build a learning center and they
will come. She has attracted a steady trickle of island
children who want to learn to read, to improve their reading
comprehension and to learn about computers.
West End Facelift
by Thomas Tomczyk
Anticipated Paving of West End Road, Sewage System is Coming,
End property owners are expected to pay around $17 a month
until the sewer project is paid off, currently estimated
to be around nine years. "By law I have to charge property
owners for some of the cost involved in these projects,"
said Mayor Galindo. The corporation decides on the percentage
rate of the cost of each individual project that property
owners have to pay.
West End road is planned to be paved along a roughly one
kilometer stretch--from Woody's grocery store to Miller's
Avenue. The black water system will serve almost the entire
community, from Seagrape in the north to Miller's Avenue
in the south. "It [the road] is going to be concrete,
but we are working with the community to decide the color,"
said Mayor Galindo.
Other projects still in the planning stages include a mile-long
Coxen Hole seawall and walkway. "It's very ambitious,
but it's my idea of how to kill three birds with one stone,"
said Mayor Galindo. The one-mile-long seawall would be created
from the fill (excavation) of the "North Hill"
at Roatan Airport, which would allow for the airport to
expand, and according to Mayor Galindo, beautify Coxen Hole,
expand its shopping appeal and ease traffic congestion.
The seawall, running from Port of Roatan to the Point, would
also serve to run the sewer lines and electrical lines.
"I'm trying to do projects that are not so popular
but need to be done," says Mayor Galindo.
Yet another infrastructure plan in the making is related
to the municipal garbage dump that is projected to reach
capacity in 1-2 years time. Mayor Galindo says that the
Municipality is looking at purchasing an adjacent site for
the expansion of the Roatan Municipal dump. "We want
to make a sports facility on the site of the old dump,"
says Mayor Galindo, who envisions a possible Municipal football
stadium. Galindo believes that this would not only fill
a need for sporting facilities on the island, but would
also raise interest in how the dump is managed and how it
looks, if people were involved in activities close to it.
Main street of West End after a storm.
After years of no infrastructure investment in West End,
Roatan's tourist hub, the Municipality is taking an initiative
to improve the community's sewer and road. To help cover
the cost of the project a trust was set up at Banco Atlantida
in the amount of Lps. 14 million. "I saved as much
money as I could last year," said Mayor Julio Galindo,
who hopes he can increase the trust to Lps. 47 million to
be able to cover other infrastructure projects in his municipality.
The funding of these types of projects by each one of Honduras'
298 municipalities has become more difficult. Honduras just
lost the $200 million in World Bank 2011 assistance from
"Fondo Prosperidad," because the country was assessed
as having fallen in the rankings in corruption. This money
was destined for infrastructure projects--roads, business
loans and tourism.
The black water project for 3,000 West End residents is
estimated to cost around Lps. 15 million and to begin in
March. So far 19 companies, four of them based on Roatan,
have submitted their Bona Fide credentials for West End
project bid. The deadline for the bid itself is scheduled
for February 11. "We hope to have the project finished
by summer," said Mayor Galindo.
"The weak point of the plan is to pay for the black
water plant, but not to leave any money for the expense
of connecting people to the main lines, " says Dan
Taylor, who believes that this was the major flaw in the
construction and funding of the Coxen Hole black water treatment
plan. Dan Taylor's ACME Environmental is one of the companies
bidding for the project in West End.
story / editorial
with Black Water
by Thomas Tomczyk
Companies and Projects Lead the Way for Roatan to Take Charge of
of the management of municipal septic, waste and water systems has
been on the agenda for several years, but goes against the grain
of many Honduran officials. "Julio [Galindo] understands it
in concept, but has difficulty allowing the corporation to take
the next step," says Dan Taylor, owner of ACME
The real litmus test for Roatan's ability to manage its sewage is
West Bay. The internationally known, high-end community developed
without a master plan and with many property developers disregarding
building codes and development laws. The majority of West Bay's
buildings are located on reclaimed marsh and are resting on land
that is only a couple feet above sea level. The natural drainage
of West Bay, the West Bay creek, has been cut off, a constant source
One of the more interesting, alternative methods in septic treatment
in the Bay Islands can be found in the hills overlooking West Bay.
Part of Infinity Bay, a 160-condominium development in West Bay,
was designed as a horizontal flow wetlands area by Vern Albert,
one of five owners. Five of the seven acres of Infinity Bay are
used for these wetlands, which resemble a meandering forest creek
filled with rocks and lined with plants.
The entire cleaning process begins at the buildings with three septic
tanks per building. Then the black water is then lifted by a pump
to 40' onto a forested hill overlooking the development and into
a meandering "wetland like" environment.
"I'm self taught and driven by this stuff. I am really turning
s-t into Shinola," says Albert of his job. With wild, gray
hair Albert admits to having 26 occupations in his lifetime and
feels that this varied experience has prepared him for the complexity
of working on a project like this. "Combat engineering is what
"We need more wetlands, dragonflies, bats and frogs
that's what I love," says Albert, while turning over leaves
of dieffenbachia and coco plants that grow in the gravel and break
down the bacteria. Albert says that the environment, especially
trees, are introducing bacteria into his system that eliminate the
continued need to purchase "expensive bacteria like the Pirana."
Albert looks over Infinity Bay's horizontal flow structured wetlands
that brake down the septic matter
many Roatanians don't know and don't care to think about what happens
to their toilet refuse once it is flushed, it affects all of their
futures. The fringing reef that has encompassed the island for millions
of year has been under increased stressed in the last 20 years.
The growing population density and inadequate septic standards have
decreased the water quality, increased water algae and degraded
fish and coral.
While large world bank projects brought sanitation and desalinization
plants to Coxen Hole, the management of these resources proved "too
complex" for the local authorities. "We have maybe 2-3%
percent of the entire Coxen Hole population hooked up to the black
water plant," admits Mayor of Roatan Julio Galindo. One of
the problems: the paving of the streets in Cozen Hole made it difficult
if not impossible to connect new homes to the main sewage lines.
Additionally, funding for the project didn't assist individuals
in connecting their pipes to the municipal lines.
The biggest problem Roatan is facing is the combination of high
density habitation close to marine and reef environments. Since
2006 ACME Environmental Solutions has increased its experience in
providing large and small scale solutions for the island's septic
challenges. ACME has provided septic systems at Keyhole Bay, West
Bay Mall and 24 residential homes throughout the island. Things
are only getting busier for the company as both Mahogany Bay and
Megaplaza consider contracting ACME to solve their improperly designed
septic systems, some just a year-and-a-half in operation.
Another area ACME hopes to expand to is in the design and maintenance
of municipal and municipally funded septic systems. "We [The
Municipality] doesn't have the capacity to manage the infrastructure
projects," admits Mayor Galindo. The Roatan Municipality has
already hired ACME to design a decentralized municipal septic system
on Anthony's Key and Bailey's Cay.