Circumnavigating Roatan
A newcomer to Roatan brings a fresh perspective to seeing the island.

October 1st, 2006
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v4-10-Interview-Kevin CleaverIn early August Dr. Kevin Cleaver and his stepson Matthew Hernandez, 19, undertook a three day voyage of circumnavigating Roatan on a 16 foot Hobie Cat catamaran. Dr. Kevin Cleaver is an adventurer. In his 50’s, he possesses the enthusiasm and curiosity of boy and experience of a veteran mariner.

Kevin built his first boat at 15 at Long Island Sound and taught himself how to sail. In 1970s he bought one of the first windsurfers and has been windsurfing ever since. Kevin also has a charter boat license and has sailed everywhere from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

His $6,500 polyethurane HobiecCat with wing elevated seats, was powered by main sail and a jib. The supplies for the adventure: food, water, snorkeling gear, extra clothes and a cell phone were placed in watertight storage bags.

Hobie is famous for its catamarans and only recently the company introduced a polyethurane material, a bit heavier than fiberglass and tough as nails. The material is perfect for sailing within reefs, as the hull just bounces off the coral without being damaged. Fiberglass boats would be torn to shreds.

Traveling as fast as 15 knots, the HobieCat displaces barely 6 inches. Its two rudders sit deeper, but when they encounter an underwater obstacle a safety mechanism kicks them up.

Kevin and Matthew departed to see what Roatan was like from the sea and discovered what many people living on Roatan have forgotten, the islands pristine beauty.

v4-10-Interview-Kevin CleaverBay Islands VOICE: Did you get support from local people for your venture?
Kevin Cleaver: Everyone I talked to said not to do it. That there are too many bugs, no telephones and that was a final straw- I had to do it. You don’t see too many sailboats here. In West End there are some big sailboats, but they don’t sail inside the reef. Having sailed 80 miles around the island, I recall seeing only two small sailboats.
B.I.V.: What were your most memorable experiences of the trip?
K.C.: The island of Roatan seen from the sea is beautiful and you don’t get that sense driving on the main road. On the coast you have some very nice houses, the vegetation, the art of the skyline, the back hump ridges. It’s all very beautiful. (…) The reef and the heads on the east side of the island between Morat and Barbarat are great. On [Port Royal’s] Fort Island you can see the old pirate fortifications. Even a part of the wall has been preserved. There is a well that the pirates built.
B.I.V.: How fast were you able to sail?
K.C.: On the sail from Barefoot Cay to the west end of the island, we were absolutely roaring.
On the third day we had big waves, a very strong wind and we were just hauling down. With the crest of the wave six inches from my ear it was almost like surfing.
B.I.V.: Did you flip the catamaran before?
K.C.: We flipped our Hobie, before our trip, three times. On one occasion we had some trouble. It was windy and we were outside the reef and the waves were big. With the very strong wind it was very hard for the two of us to flip. Luckily somebody came along, threw us a line and with just a tug, my son and I pulling, we were able to get upright.
B.I.V.: Any negative experiences?
K.C.: The bugs. In the middle of Morat there is a big swamp and it’s just bug city, just a stew of bugs that descended on us in a cloud. You could hear them crunching on us. On a plus side, it was a learning experience. [/private]

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